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Pakistan 20 February 2006

New campaign launched for journalist missing for 11 weeks

Reporters Without Borders has added its voice to an appeal launched on 18 February by Pervez Shaukat, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in aid of Hayatullah Khan, who went missing on 5 December 2005.

The campaign comes at a time when another journalist, Abdul Aziz Lasi, of the regional daily Intikhab, was kidnapped and held for one day by military secret services in Balochistan in the south-west.

"The abduction of Abdul Aziz Lasi serves as a reminder about another journalist, Hayatullah Khan, who disappeared more than 11 weeks ago in the tribal zone of North Waziristan. A variety of sources suspect the military secret services of being responsible for both kidnappings. The government should explain itself in both cases," the press freedom organisation said.

Abdul Aziz Lasi, bureau chief of the daily Intikhab, was abducted on 15 February in Hub, north-west of Karachi. He had just taken photos of the bodies of three Chinese engineers murdered in the province, the scene of clashes between security forces and armed groups.

This latest incident came as the PFUJ gave the governor of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) until 10 March to find Hayatullah Khan, a journalist on the Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA). He was abducted by armed men on 5 December 2005, in Mir Ali, in the tribal zone of North Waziristan. A few days previously, Khan had produced photographic evidence to contradict the Pakistani Army’s claim that an al-Qaeda leader had been killed by a US missile and not in an accidental explosion.

At a demonstration in Peshawar on 18 February called by the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), the Khyber Union of Journalists (KUJ), and the PFUJ, Khan’s wife said in a message read by one of her children, "I am the widow of a living husband. I hope the journalistic community to help us find Hayatullah." President of the TUJ, Sailab Mehsud, said that "journalism has been paralysed in the tribal zones", because of attacks by extremists and government threats.

Several participants, including PFUJ leader Pervez Shaukat, accused the authorities of not doing enough and of intimidating those who campaigned for Khan. An official at the Governor’s House recently told journalists in Peshawar: "The more noise you make, the more you prolong Hayatullah’s captivity".

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